After their disastrous FIFA World Cup in 2018 where they finished bottom of their group, Poland will look back at their quarterfinal finish in Euro 2016 and take inspiration from that run and have their say in the upcoming Euro 2020 under a manager who has only taken charge of three games after being appointed.
Spearheaded by their influential captain Robert Lewandowski, Biało-Czerwoni this time around is going into the campaign with a mix of veterans and youngsters who will hope to set the tournament on fire and players such as Kamil Glik, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Arkadiusz Milik will have to chip in with their experience for Poland to make an impact at the Euros.
WHO IS POLAND’S MANAGER?
A member of Portugal’s golden generation that awed the eyes of football fans in the early 2000’s, Paulo Sousa had quite a decent career as a player, playing for big clubs like Benfica, Sporting, Juventus, Borussia Dortmund and Inter Milan. As a manager, Sousa started off with the U16 squad of Portugal after which he went on to manage nine clubs which included Queens Park Rangers, Swansea City, Leicester City, Basel, and Fiorentina.
Paulo Sousa posing with a Polish scarf after being announced as manager in January.
At Basel, he won the Swiss Super League in 2015. In January 2021, Sousa was announced that he was going to replace Jerzy Brzęczek, under whom Poland qualified for Euro 2020, but had issues with the top management after the end of the UEFA Nations League.
Although he has only managed Poland for three games in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers, Sousa tactics and playstyle have showcased that his team should be hardworking but also be intelligent and creative in their attacking play. In terms of setting up the team, Sousa predominantly uses a 3-5-2 formation, with Robert Lewandowski along with another forward up top while the creativity lies mainly within the brilliance of Piotr Zielinski.
Goalkeepers: Łukasz Fabiański, Wojciech Szczęsny, Łukasz Skorupski
Defenders: Kamil Glik, Maciej Rybus, Bartosz Bereszyński, Jan Bednarek, Paweł Dawidowicz, Tomasz Kędziora, Kamil Piątkowski, Michał Helik, Tymoteusz Puchacz
Midfielders: Przemysław Frankowski, Grzegorz Krychowiak, Piotr Zieliński, Mateusz Klich, Kamil Jóźwiak, Kacper Kozłowski, Jakub Moder, Przemysław Płacheta, Karol Linetty
Attackers: Robert Lewandowski, Arkadiusz Milik, Dawid Kownacki, Karol Świderski, Jakub Świerczok
The biggest headache that Sousa would have is to choose whom from the two genuinely top goalkeepers he has at his disposal. In the three recent World Cup qualifiers, held in March, Wojciech Szczęsny started all three while Łukasz Fabianski has had to warm the bench.
Fabianski, who has had a great season with West Ham, will hope to replace Szczęsny as the number one for Poland at Euro 2020. (Image Courtesy: West Ham United / Website)
But, with key fixtures for West Ham United coming up, Fabianski needs to be at his best for the Hammers to qualify for Champions League and if he performs well, he might bench the Juventus shot-stopper when the Euros start.
Europe’s best player last season, Robert Lewandowski is Poland’s talisman with his impeccable skills as a centre-forward and has had a major impact in lifting his national side to the upper echelons of European football. One of the very best in the business, Poland will rest their hopes upon their captain to have any success at the upcoming Euros.
🇵🇱 Lewandowski leads with most G/A in all competitions this season ⚽️
🇵🇹 Bruno Fernandes is the only midfielder amongst the names on the list. pic.twitter.com/slwqA7dYoa
— 101 Great Goals (@101greatgoals) May 4, 2021
In the 35 games he played for Bayern Munich, Lewandowski went on to score 41 goals, including 36 in the league and 7 assists. But the knee injury he suffered during the last international break had quite an impact on Bayern’s chances as they crashed out of the Champions League in the quarterfinals. For Poland, he is currently their highest ever goal scorer, with 66 goals in 118 appearances.
Likened to Sergio Busquets by his youth coaches, Jakub Moder is a bit more versatile than the Barcelona midfielder, with the ability to beat players and has an eye for a goal. Although Moder is only 22 years of age, he has already made eight appearances for his national side, scoring two goals and a first competitive one against England in the World Cup qualifiers.
A key member in a Graham Potter managed Brighton side, Moder will look to solidify his place in the national side and in turn win the trust of Potter at his club as a regular starter for the Seagulls, who are blessed with young and talented midfielders.
Jakub Moder was impressive. Something that event stats can't capture, though, is his off-ball movement – varied his runs, made good angles to receive, attacked open spaces with intensity. Excited to see how he grows into this Brighton team and the Premier League. https://t.co/w8PAPhEYM5
— Scouted Football (@scoutedftbl) March 21, 2021
For the time being, Kuba, as he is affectionately called by his teammates, might have to settle for a bench role at the Euros, but he would more than ready to grab a spot in the starting eleven and impress the football lovers.
Poland, prior to this year’s Euros, has participated in only three previous editions, the latest in 2016. Although crashing out in the group stages in their first two campaigns, their run to the quarterfinals of the 2016 edition is their best outing till date. After defeating Switzerland on penalties in the round of 16, Poland agonizingly lost out to eventual champions Portugal in another penalty shootout in the quarters.
Polish players celebrating after their penalty shootout win against Switzerland in Euro 2016. (Image Courtesy: USA Today / Website)
In terms of their form into Euro 2020, Poland qualified after finishing first in their group, ahead of Austria, North Macedonia, Slovenia, Israel, and Latvia. Before the commencement of their campaign, they are set to play two friendlies against Russia and Iceland.
Poland will look forward for their matches after being drawn alongside Spain, Slovakia, and Sweden in Group E. Although, none of these are pushover sides, Poland will be hoping to have their say in the group and that would mean only one thing, an interesting set of matches for the viewers.
With quite a few experienced players and youngsters in the squad, Paulo Sousa’s men will go into the Euros after patchy run of fixtures. In their recently concluded matches, they have won one, drew one and lost one.
We, at FootTheBall, predict that although it might be tricky for the Eagles to qualify as the group winner with powerhouses Spain in the same group , they are formidable enough to qualify as a runner up or at least as one of the four best third placed teams at the end of the group stage. The definitive test then starts, as they can encounter any of the top sides in the world.